What's the Risk With Character?

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The voices calling for Denver Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall in Baltimore are getting loud, even though the Ravens remain collectively silent on the matter.

BaltimoreRavens.com has received an influx of emails urging the team to swing a trade for the talented and troubled wideout.

The *Baltimore Sun *recently posted a poll asking which receiver available via trade or free agency fans wanted, and Marshall slightly edged Arizona's Anquan Boldin, former New York Giant Plaxico Burress and Braylon Edwards of Cleveland.

But while Marshall's talent is undeniable – boasting an impressive 226 receptions for 2,899 yards and 15 touchdowns during three seasons in Denver – he brings off-field baggage with which the Ravens typically don't deal.

That goes for the draft and free agency.

"Well, their background matters," general manager Ozzie Newsome said before this year's draft. "We want to bring guys in here that are what we consider Ravens. Any player that we bring in here, we've got to be convinced that he's a man of integrity, a high-character guy and that our players can respect him in the locker room.

"That's going to be true whether it's in a draft or free agency or any guys we choose to re-sign."

The receivers in the Sun's poll all have some sort of off-field issue, and the problems only get worse as one goes down the list.

Edwards has been called a "diva" by former teammates, including current NFL Network analyst and former Browns quarterback Trent Dilfer (according to Don Banks of SI.com), causing Cleveland to investigate trade partners.

Boldin has skipped offseason workouts as he is very publicly seeking a trade or new long-term contract from the team that drafted him.

Burress was recently cited for two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon in a night club last year. Burress shot himself in the leg with an illegal hand gun in Manhattan.

And Marshall owns a long history of off-the-field issues. Reportedly, he has been arrested or questioned by police 13 times - seven times for alleged domestic abuse - since 2004.

While head coach John Harbaugh previously stated that any player that can help the team win is going to be considered at some point, character is a big factor in whether said player is actually added.

"We look at that real hard because we think those are the type of people that you win with," said Harbaugh.

Most teams have and will compromise on the character issue, though – especially if the rewards are deemed worth a gamble. What franchise wouldn't want a receiver over 6-foot-3 that can stretch the field and break open a game?

Still, there is no guarantee that savior can even get on the field.

Burress could do time in jail following a trial scheduled for September.

Marshall must stand trial in August for two counts of misdemeanor battery from an incident in 2008 involving former girlfriend Rasheedah Watley. A conviction could mean a suspension from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell – this coming off a season where he was suspended one game for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

There is also the case of wideout Donte Stallworth, who was cited with DUI vehicular manslaughter this spring, received a 30-day sentence and an indefinite suspension from Goodell.

These examples demonstrate that the off-the-field conduct and character can affect on-the-field production. It is definitely a roll of the dice.

The Ravens have not taken many risks, and it shows in the current locker room.

With leaders like linebacker Ray Lewis, safety Ed Reed and wideout Derrick Mason, even those prospects that may have faced transgressions in the past have followed the "Ravens Way."

Newsome also points to the Ravens' player development program headed by O.J. Brigance and Harry Swayne, which prepares players for life after football and offers guidance when they are in the league.

"It's about behavior," Newsome said. "In our society, everybody makes a mistake. We look at the behavior if the player has an opportunity to come into the structure that O.J., Harry - all the support we have here in our building - that can change and become a better person each day they are there. We will take a chance on that person."

Perhaps that is why the rumors of a new wideout persist. The Ravens have a solid base that can put troubled talents back on the right path.

Each of the aforementioned receivers is big, tough and capable of making Baltimore's passing game more explosive. They would all benefit from quarterback Joe Flacco's strong and accurate arm and Cam Cameron's belief in taking shots downfield.

But the Ravens will be sure to conduct their due diligence before bringing any of them to Owings Mills. There are only two outcomes to such a scenario – one that leads to wins and one that brings trouble.

Rarely do they intersect.  

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